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Aggressively ironic and ostentatiously sloppy
October 9, 2011 5:01 PM   Subscribe

An Indian-American rapper and his crew are making serious waves in the hip hop world. A profile of Himanshu Suri (Heems) and his group - Das Racist.
posted by vidur (44 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've become a total Das Racist fan. Love the two mixtapes. The new album Relax is growing on me, too, it's got some great tracks.

A couple of great videos: Michael Jackson, Who's That? Brooown!
posted by Nelson at 5:09 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wasn't a big fan of the songs Nelson posted, although they are interesting, but maybe you have to be passively exposed to US hip hop more to enjoy that kind of ironic take.

Clicking links on youtube I really liked Rainbow in the Dark. The electroey beats and whimsical lyrics reminded me a bit of the DELS songs I like.
posted by Not Supplied at 5:21 PM on October 9, 2011


(wait til later in the song btw)
posted by Not Supplied at 5:23 PM on October 9, 2011


Das Racist gave the best ever interview to Deborah Solomon:

Do you see your work as a critique of white America?

Suri: I think it is solely a critique of John Boehner. As our bandmate Ashok Kondabolu would say, John Boehner represents the utmost in white demonry.


This is precisely why I make a point of never asking rappers questions about politics.

Suri: Deborah, chill. Vazquez: Fall back.

posted by villanelles at dawn at 5:28 PM on October 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


hahaha
posted by Not Supplied at 5:29 PM on October 9, 2011


Nardwuar V Das Racist.
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 5:33 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


hahahaha jk?

(I think Girl is the sleeper hit on Relax. Amazing beats by Blood Diamonds.)
posted by Nelson at 5:34 PM on October 9, 2011


Also: Das Racist's Cartoon Off with the New Yorker, which Das Racist 'wins'.
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 5:35 PM on October 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I saw them in concert, for 30 seconds, before their bodies were completely obscured by beautiful women, who later danced onstage. I had a fun time.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 5:36 PM on October 9, 2011


I saw them perform live at Bumbershoot and I didn't have a great time. They mainly seemed to be screwing around in a way that entertained them much more than the crowd. Maybe they were having an off day. The interview linked by villanelles at dawn is hilarious.
posted by grouse at 5:39 PM on October 9, 2011


I love Das Racist so damn much. The new album is great.
posted by mathowie at 5:40 PM on October 9, 2011


Man, I don't think it's an ironic take! It's not in any way novelty hip hop. It's full of jokes and often funny, but in no way is it a joke about hip hop. They just have a different perspective and are using rap music in a pretty straightforward way to express it.
posted by chrchr at 5:54 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Das Racist is great, but that article with 'soaring' 'brio' was a bit much. As is this, IMHO equally transgressive Bulgarian: http://joemygod.blogspot.com/2011/10/azis-hop.html

Enjoy! Prob nsfw.
posted by CaptApollo at 6:01 PM on October 9, 2011


Yeah. chrchr is on it. It's not an ironic take. They really are just making fun hip hop. Something like "Fake Patois" you'd expect to be an ironic take on its subject, but they play it pretty straight, which is kind of their signature.
posted by eyeballkid at 6:09 PM on October 9, 2011


Omg, sorry. Here's the Video from 'our favorite Bulgarian gypsy drag Eurovision disco bear'. btw, early drinking + iPad keyboard = difficult.
posted by CaptApollo at 6:09 PM on October 9, 2011


Not ironic, Childish Gambino (Donald Glover from community) is ironic.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:14 PM on October 9, 2011


Is it? As a Donald Glover fan it would make me feel better if it were.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 6:17 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Framing upsets me. When did Heems become the Q-Tipy sole face of the dang group? This is also my issue with the new album, not just this post. Victor: still alive!
posted by zvs at 6:35 PM on October 9, 2011


I think it is. He has lyrics like " e. e. Cumming in her face, now that's poetry in motion" and "kiss my ass human centipede" and "I'm eating oreos like white girls that blow me", which many may find offesive but are obvious parodies of mainstream rap tropes.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:35 PM on October 9, 2011


The problem with Donald Glover isn't his lack of irony, it's that he's a hack with no flow who practices his Lil Wayne impression in the bathroom mirror.

Flamewar aside, I never got an ironic vibe from it so much as a "I have vaguely intellectual references to make while completely buying into stupid rap tropes." Das Racist is a lot better at screwing around with rap stereotypes while embracing them, IMO.
posted by zvs at 6:38 PM on October 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


I liked him most when he was moderating spelling bees. /derail
posted by villanelles at dawn at 6:40 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hmm...I think there's a difference between irony and slapstick parody. They do make listenable songs and I'm sure they can rap, but when he's like 'Michael Jackson...a million dollars...can you feel me?" is it not an ironic take on mainstream hip-hop artists doing that kind of thing?

I don't see how Fake Patois is not a joke I think it's piss funny. "Shabba Ranks...Cutty Ranks...your M.O. is 'mo no thanks"

Maybe we're using irony in a different way.
posted by Not Supplied at 6:40 PM on October 9, 2011


The other day I saw a combination Arby's and Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken. I pointed it out to my wife. Then she cursed me because this Das Racist song would be stuck in her head for days.

Also, the family just moved from a small town to a larger city and my stepdaughter couldn't believe that combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bells actually existed outside the reality of that song.
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 7:06 PM on October 9, 2011


I enjoy plenty of Das Racist material, but if you don't recognize them as being mostly 'jokey' (not funny, jokey) I would wager you don't particularly have your finger on the pulse of rap. They started out as a 100% pure joke, and seemingly realized they could maybe be a little more than that, and the last year or so has seen the fruits of that effort ripen. Unfortunately, they come off (to me at least) as a parody act (albeit a sometimes good, often witty parody).

Rap is something that does not mesh well with straight out parody (of itself). Authenticity and history are too important in the climate of rap fandom for DR to come off too well, and I can't say I am bothered by that. It's a young art, and those who are passionate about it are often very protective. DR, while entertaining, are not very good rappers. The writing is often fun or funny, and as I said it is nearly always full of wit, but that's rarely enough in the crowd DR is trying to appeal to. The 'hipster' set (for lack of a better term; I hate calling people 'hipsters') will continue to eat DR up, and so will people who only listen to a relatively small amount of rap (which I think likely describes a good portion of the MeFi audience), but people who live and breath hip hop will not ever validate DR as they exist today.

For me, the issue with DR's material is the complete lack of emotional depth, which has been a pretty consistent factor in most of the great rap since 1988. Das Racist completely lacks the candor that allows people to really connect with the music. It is fun to listen to, and to laugh with, but it does not offer anything more than that.

Another issue is that, to most people with well-trained rap ears, they have awful mic presence, flow, and breath control.

Those two factors really show through when they end up on a song with other, more talented rappers. For an example, check out this Mr. Muthafuckin Exquire video that features Despot, DR, Danny Brown, El-P and MMF Exquire. DR entertain on this, but next to more well-rounded and skilled mcs they sound goofy-in-a-bad-way. They lack the swagger of Despot, the weirdo/emotional appeal of Danny Brown, the urgency and skill of El-P, and the 90s era throwback rawness of Exquire.

For rap-obsessed people, there just is not a lot of reason to tune in to Das Racist. I sometimes feel like they are quietly mocking certain things that I love (I'm mostly okay with that, but it does get a little grating, and I know a lot of potential listeners get turned off by it quickly), and other times I just wonder why I am wasting time with DR when Danny Brown, Action Bronson, Despot, MMF Exquire, Billy Woods, Yelawolf, and Killer Mike are all coming out with projects and getting real attention from listeners.

There's just not enough time to listen to people who don't take it seriously.
posted by broadway bill at 7:32 PM on October 9, 2011 [24 favorites]


Well Trained Rap Ears? LOL.
posted by jcruelty at 7:47 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it was really difficult to come up with a better way to say that, so I just gave up. You get the idea though.
posted by broadway bill at 7:55 PM on October 9, 2011


My ears are better at rapping than everyone else who raps.
posted by palidor at 7:58 PM on October 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


The very lyrical sense of humour and stage presence as a "joke" band who aren't quite entirely a joke remind me a lot---a lot---of TISM.

Exhibit 1: I might be a cunt, but at least I'm not a fucking cunt
Exhibit 2: He'll never be an old man River
Exhibit 3: All Homeboys Are Dickheads
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:00 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Excellent observations broadway bill. Right on the mark I think. I'd never seen them before and I laughed a lot and sought out more videos but eventually they become a bit of a one-trick pony. They are great at what they do but also confined by their choice. They remind me of Weird Al. Smart, funny, talented, but pigeon-holed.
posted by binturong at 8:02 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I completely disagree with Broadway Bill. A) I think they have excellent skills B) even if they didn't, obsessing about their "breath control" and what not seems quite silly to me and misses the point. It's like complaining that punk bands don't have excellent guitar skills. It's not about technical master and Technique. And this idea that they're an impersonal "joke band" seems pretty superficial to me-- there's tons of personal stuff woven into all their songs, I mean Heems and Victor's experiences as brown men and specifically Heem's background as a 2nd generation immigrant in Queens is completely integral to what they do. So anyway, Das Racist is one of my fave rap groups in the world, and believe me my rap ears are "well-trained." But as the saying goes, opinions are like assholes...
posted by jcruelty at 8:17 PM on October 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm much more concerned that they're a Vampire Weekend analog than any specific hassle about jokey rap.
posted by Nelson at 8:19 PM on October 9, 2011


India is a very racist country. Great call on the band name.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:24 PM on October 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Except it is not at all like saying the whole "punk doesn't have good guitar work!" thing. Punk doesn't rely on traditionally 'good' guitar playing. Rap does, however, rely on things like breath control, presence, voice, cadence, and other signifiers of technical ability.

Basically, Das Racist is a damn fine group as a tongue in cheek dance rap act, but i don't think they've earned or deserve consideration in discussions about the current wave of great rap.
posted by broadway bill at 8:45 PM on October 9, 2011


Dance rap? Where are you getting this stuff? How are either of their mixtapes "dance rap" ? Anyway whatevs, opinions, assholes, out.
posted by jcruelty at 8:54 PM on October 9, 2011


They'll always be in my heart for Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:16 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem with Donald Glover isn't his lack of irony, it's that he's a hack with no flow who practices his Lil Wayne impression in the bathroom mirror.

Flamewar aside, I never got an ironic vibe from it so much as a "I have vaguely intellectual references to make while completely buying into stupid rap tropes." Das Racist is a lot better at screwing around with rap stereotypes while embracing them, IMO.
posted by zvs at 6:38 PM


"Here I go again, talking money, women, and clothes, right? You could switch all of my words out with Plies', right." -Childish Gambino "Be Alone"

Also just because I love him--

"Honestly, I'm rapping 'bout everything I go through, everything I'm sayin' I'm Super-Saiyan like Goku" -"My Shine"
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:42 PM on October 9, 2011


Well Trained Rap Ears? LOL.

No more LOL than well trained opera ears, or my favourite, "metal ear".
posted by rodgerd at 11:22 PM on October 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Ironic" apparently means "mediocre"...
posted by MetalFingerz at 11:25 PM on October 9, 2011


You Oughta Know is one of my favorite songs of all time. Mostly for the goofing on Billy Joel.
posted by snofoam at 6:42 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


That MMF Esquire track is evil broadway bill. I thought it was gonna come out of my speaker and strangle me.
posted by Not Supplied at 7:35 AM on October 10, 2011


they have awful mic presence, flow, and breath control.

Disagree! Their rap is pretty obviously based on stream-of-consciousness, a lazy Cheech and Chong on the mic kind of feel, that I can tell is a lot harder than it sounds. I'm not saying it's 100% original - plenty of people have done stoner rap - but to say it's easy or they dont put a lot of work into their music is just wrong.

(Remember how Eminem used to be a joke rapper? Now he's always doing this layered-voice support group shit - sounds like he's crying all the time. Yeesh.)
posted by fungible at 8:54 AM on October 10, 2011


Well Trained Rap Ears

I think what I like most about Das Racist is that nothing in rap is taboo. An intricate flow might continue or it might end with a chuckle and trail off into "whatever, man...." just as easily and they make it work. Flipping good technique on its side to make something new makes Das Racist interesting to me. When skill and technique become the be all, end all of music, we get smooth jazz....

I just wonder why I am wasting time with DR when Danny Brown , Action Bronson , Despot , MMF Exquire , Billy Woods , Yelawolf , and Killer Mike are all coming out with projects and getting real attention from listeners.


I saw Das Racist recently in Boston with Danny Brown and Despot. Danny Brown was ok. He does interesting things with his voice. Despot, on the other hand, was almost laughably unenjoyable. I say "almost laughably" because it was so unenjoyable that I couldn't even get a chuckle out of how bad it was. When he came out during Das Racist's set, I thought he was a fan brought up on stage to do a verse. His rapping was weak, but his stage presence destroyed the song. He alternated between this weird machismo stare above the audience that made it look like he wanted to fight everyone and using the microphone to simulate masturbation, and not really in an ironic way. It was so at odds with everything else on stage....I thought a bouncer would show up any minute to kick out the overzealous fan.

Das Racist, on the other hand, performed one of the most enjoyable sets I've seen in the past few years. From the opening beats to the final encore, they were in sync with the audience. They were having fun, we were having fun, and there just happened to be a concert going on, too. They were tight, but played around with the lyrics a little. Couldn't have asked for a better performance.
posted by msbrauer at 9:41 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


"...but to say it's easy or they dont put a lot of work into their music is just wrong."
--fungible

No one said either of those things though.
posted by broadway bill at 1:00 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the reason I like Das Racist so much is that I tend to treat rap music the same way I treat metal music: I value entertainment over "technical skill", and see them as potentially conflicting things. If it gets too "technical" I'm likely to move from "I really enjoy this!" to "well...that was interesting". Hence, I prefer Powerglove to Yngwie Malmsteen, and DR to say, Blackalicious.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 1:26 PM on October 10, 2011


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